The Commerce Department announced some solid—but not heroic—economic numbers for the end of 2010. The broadest measure of economic growth, GDP, grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate. That's a bit below analysts' expectations, but well above growth for the rest of the year. Third quarter growth was at just 2.6 percent.
Americans' economic output has now returned to its pre-recession level: GDP was at a $13.38 trillion annual rate in the fourth quarter, surpassing the $13.36 trillion level at the end of 2007, when the recession began. (Both figures are in 2005 dollars).
However, since 2007: population grew, millions of new people entered the labor force, companies discovered considerable technological advances that should, in theory, make them more profitable and productive than in 2007. So, we've still got a lot of recovering to do, particularly with jobs.
The Commerce Department GDP calculations do reveal a little about the uneven direction of our economic recovery. Americans on average are buying more, a lot more actually with demand up to a 7.1 percent growth rate, but we are importing less, both factors that help GDP. So we've got a little more cash and we're buying American. Computer sales boosted growth, while car sales (or the lack of them) held it back according to the commerce department.
All in all this is yet another economic data dump that shows a slow, but increasingly steady recovery in overall economic production. Job creation is another story. Those numbers come out next on February 4th.